During a breakfast presentation today in Seattle, the author Joel Kotkin delivered an optimistic forecast for our region that left everyone with a spring in their step. I enjoyed the message, but wonder if we got the right lesson.
The talk was in support of Kotkin's new book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. (His previous book The City: A Global History was fantastic so I was eager to hear him. Thanks again for the invitation, Will!) Unlike many soothsayers, he thinks growing population due to high immigration means America's prospects are good. (More on that on his Web site.) The Seattle area is particularly well poised to prosper from its position on the Pacific Rim, partly because, as he put it, Seattle is "like Portland with an economy."
But he lost me when it came to describing the sort of land use and development we'll need to accommodate more people in 2050. He said that 86% of Americans now "want" to live in detached, single-family homes, a category that presumably includes everything from mansions on five-acre lots to tall, narrow urban infill homes. More than once he said that today's planners are going too far by "forcing" people to live too densely.